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Mobile optimisation - choosing the right solution

Written by Rick O'Neill on 12 December 2012

Have you considered how your website looks on a mobile or tablet device?  If it is difficult to view or navigate, then chances are you’ve already lost potential customers.

What are the options for Mobile Optimisation?

There are two general approaches:

  1. Responsive Design
  2. A Separate Mobile Site

(You could argue that creating a Smartphone “App” would be a 3rd option, but we’ll just stick to web solutions in this article).

OPTION 1: RESPONSIVE DESIGN

What is Responsive Design?

I’m sure most web designers and developers will be aware of, or familiar with, the term ‘responsive design’.  It’s been around a while, but has recently become more important and more frequently discussed thanks to the rise in mobile web usage.

For those not yet aware, ‘responsive design’ is the application of new coding techniques that enable a website to fluidly respond to the size of the screen it is being viewed on. This means one website, one content management system, but a layout that can change itself to suit many desktop, laptop, tablet and mobile screen sizes.  A recent example of responsive design, can be seen on the new Alexandra Private Hospital website, which is optimised for both tablet and mobile layouts.

Above: Alexandra Private Hospital is a responsive website with both tablet and mobile layouts.

OPTION 2: SEPARATE MOBILE OR TABLET WEBSITE

The alternative to responsive design is to create a cut-down / simplified version of your website that is designed specifically for viewing / using on a mobile device.  This can include the sections / information that you feel your mobile users require, and can be designed to feel like an “app” (e.g. use simple menus, or graphical icons etc).  When a user hits your site from a mobile device, the site will “switch” to this version (but offer them the option to see the full site if they wish to).

Above: Performance Consultants - mobile optimised website

How do you choose the right option?

It comes down to the user/visitor, and what they are likely to be looking for when finding your site on their mobile.  In the case of a restaurant, it’s reasonable to assume that if someone has called up your site on a mobile, they are most likely to be looking for one of a few things:

  • Contact Details
  • Directions
  • Possibly a Booking Form

So, in this scenario, it would be wasteful to present them with the entire website – when you can present a simple, easy to use, mobile site that contains these 3 simple functions / pieces of information.

On the other hand, if your mobile users appear to be consuming lots of news, articles, or blog content – then it may be worth going down the responsive route – so that they can view all this content in a mobile-friendly way.

Study the Analytics

Study your visitor statistics (Google Analytics is the usual choice) – and look at how mobile users are using your current site (or trying to, at least).  Which areas of the site are they looking at? What keywords did they use to get their? From what source did they come?  In some cases you can learn enough that you only need to mobile optimise certain parts of the site in order to solve the problem.

Why should you and your clients care about this?

You should care because your end-users or potential customers already have a certain expectation for a seamless experience on the web, regardless of the device being used. If they find your site unusable at worst, or frustrating at best, then they will simply leave to find one that works well.

What to do now?

Study the site’s Analytics.  See how many mobile users are trying to access the site, what they are looking for etc.  Talk to your clients about the issue, highlighting the facts in this article.  Most clients will be grateful for the information, and will most likely want to at least understand the costs and options to solve it.

Author bio: Rick O'Neill is the Creative Director of Digital Agency; 'look, touch & feel' - with a presence in London and The Midlands, delivering a full service from brand creation, through web design and development, to email and social marketing. http://www.looktouchfeel.co.uk

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